April 17, 2007

Physical anthropology and ethnicity in Asia

J Physiol Anthropol. 2007 Mar;26(2):77-82.

Physical Anthropology and Ethnicity in Asia: The Transition from Anthropometry to Genome-based Studies.

Bittles H, Black ML, Wang W.

Initial physical anthropology studies into ethnic diversity were largely dependent on comparative whole body and craniometric measurements, and through time assessments of ethnic diversity based on these measures exhibited increasing statistical sophistication. Since the 1990s, in Asia as elsewhere in the world, human diversity studies have increasingly utilized DNA-based analyses, with Y-chromosome and mtDNA markers providing complementary perspectives on the origins and gene pool structures of different ethnic groups. This approach is illustrated in a study of population genetic structure in PR China, in which DNA samples from the Han majority and eight ethnic minorities were analyzed. The Y-chromosome and mtDNA data showed multiple paternal geographical and ethnic origins but restricted maternal ancestries. However, interpretive problems were apparent in the definition of a number of the ethnic study populations, which appear to reflect political as well as genetic influences. In all anthropological studies, whether based on anthropometry or genomic analysis, unambiguous and appropriate community identification is a prerequisite.


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